Saturday, May 26, 2007

Interview with Editor Theresa Howell About Authenticity

René Colato Laínez

Theresa Howell is the Editor of Rising Moon and Luna Rising, Imprints of Northland Publishing.

What does a manuscript need to have in order to be multicultural?

Too many stories for children depict characters from the dominant culture. A multicultural manuscript tells the stories of characters outside of the mainstream. These manuscripts tell stories of people from wonderfully diverse cultures. They help readers look at the world from different perspectives.

Of all those manuscripts that you receive in a daily basis how many are real multicultural or have the potential to be multicultural?

I would say that approximately 10% of the manuscripts I receive are multicultural.

What is lacking in these stories? Are they full of stereotypes or misconceptions?

Many of the manuscripts that I receive are filled with stereotypes and misconceptions. Before deciding to publish a multicultural story, we make sure to have it reviewed for stereotypes. I also get stories about themes that I feel are overused and not a fair or complete representation of a particular culture. For instance I get many many manuscripts about tortillas. I feel that the Latino culture extends far beyond tortillas so I tend to turn down those stories.

Can an author write books outside his/ her culture?

I prefer to work with authors who are writing from inside their culture. It's not impossible to write from outside of your culture, but for a very long time, non-dominant cultures have been represented in literature by the dominant culture. I would prefer to the voices from those within the culture.

What do these authors need to do in order to write an authentic multicultural picture book?

People writing from outside their culture need to have an intimate knowledge of what they're writing about. They need to have real connections to people from within the culture. Their stories need to be "approved" by those who belong to the culture they're writing about.


Anonymous said...

Zee Diaz

I agree with your featured guest. I write for and knowing the culture you speak of is key for us. For example we recently had someone of Jewish non-latino descent send us an article about Chihuahuas (the dogs) in trying to be culturally sensitive. We appreciated the sentiment, but failed to publish the article.

One that might've had a shot would have been one that discussed jewish culture and aspects therein, thus characterizing the writer's background & experiences.

Anonymous said...

Good insight into getting stories published.
The kind of post that makes La Bloga a great find.